Category Archives: Quality

Here is how Taxi-Auto-walas can fight against Uber-Ola

Taxi and Auto-walas of Mumbai and adjoining cities are facing heat of competition from Uber, Ola and the like.

The challenge is new. The challengers are also new. The approach to fight back against such a challenge also has to be new.

But, Taxi-Auto-walas are not learning any lessons. Misguided by their politically motivated leaders, they are resorting to their old arm-twisting tactics of pressurizing the government through strikes etc.

They don’t know that they can’t succeed. By strikes, they will give opportunity to many new customers to experience the better services of Uber-Ola for the first time. They must learn that the rules of the game have changed.

Instead, they should resolve to fight Uber-Ola by:
a) Providing better service
b) Not refusing fare
c) Being polite
d) Following traffic rules
e) Being transparent by not cheating

The leaders who are inciting them must help them realize the reality of the time.

But these leaders will.never do so.
Because they don’t want their followers to grow. To learn. To flourish.

Sooner or later, Taxi-Auto-walas will have to mend their ways, or face extinction.
Till then, if they continue such mindless acts, they will repeatedly fail.
Certainly.
Miserably.

Customers, who.have experienced good service will never prefer their inferior treatment. Customers will punish the perpetrators for providing poor service.

Market realities cannot be wished away by political noise.

And politicians will never tell you this.

Some lessons can’t be taught. They have to be learned.

Marketing lesson from Mumbai’s BEST AC bus service failure

Ideally, city public bus services can help traffic congestion in metros. AC public transport buses can also attract some private car owners to switch to them if the service is reliable, fast and comfortable. One bus can help keeping 30-40 cars off roads used in daily,  regular commute.

AC bus service provided by BEST in Mumbai runs empty even during rush hours. This is one example of marketing failure. There is a huge demand for transport during rush hours in Mumbai, and still BEST does not get customers and loses money on the service.

Why?

The buses run frustratingly slow. It seems the drivers are trained and told to “take their time”. Also, the buses seem to have very slow pickup. Or, may be they are of inferior quality which can’t run or maneuver fast. So, taking such a bus means having a leisurely ride to somewhere where you are not in hurry to reach. Officegoers can’t rely on such a slow, unreliable service.

Another reason is timings. Many of the rides run during non-rush hours, attracting hardly 10% occupancy. It seems BEST has not studied customer needs before starting this service and its timings.

If municipal corporations want to provide some reliable alternative to private commuting, they must promise and provide reliability, punctuality and speed at peak hours.

If they fail to satisfy this basic customer need, customers will not patronize it. It is simple marketing lesson. Governments and its companies should look at marketing from customer’s point of rather than ruining their enterprises from bureaucratic point of view.

Indian Railways’ Bad design = Bad Customer Experience # 1

Indian Railways (and many other Indian Government departments) have a large number of Einsteins sitting in their dusty offices. These Einsteins come out with innovative designs and process solutions which, instead of improving the quality of service, increase the hardships and troubles of the passengers.

Railways has installed some modern escalators at local train stations in Mumbai. At Dadar, one such swanky escalator on platform no.2 on Western side is not much used by people. It is always deserted. Very few people use it preferring the staircase next. Why is this so in a heavily crowded station like Dadar, where people should have loved to use such modern facility?

The escalator leads to a foot over bridge which is truncated up to Western side only. The unassuming people willing to go to East side or Central Railway who climb up the escalator have to first climb down from that bridge and climb up stairs all the way again….! Result ? The escalator is useless for 70% of the commuters.

Some among the Einsteins should have seen the place before coming out with such half-baked modern solution wasting huge amount of time, money and energy. Bad designs result into bad customer experience. At least we should learn this from the wasteful expenditure of our government.

These Einsteins don’t have to pay from their pockets so they can afford all such idiosyncrasies.
We can’t.

Terminal T2 is a symptom of a larger disease

It is only a month since the new swanky terminal in Mumbai T2 was thrown open with a lot of fanfare. Traditional and Social media got abuzz with proud list of facilities and photographs of this new marvel of the country. This new, modern terminal was touted as one more sign that India had suddenly become world-class.

Now it is coming out that this grand looking structure may be an architectural marvel, but it is not a properly designed one as long as people’s experience is concerned.

Many of the facilities are not functional.
Facilities are badly designed from user point of view.
The first-class lounge is infested with mosquitoes. Recently, a false ceiling came down causing a disruption.

We are a very easily impressionable society and get impressed by grand structures and grand talks. May be the grandeur makes us feel smaller. May be our repeated disappointments have made us lower our standards.

But as a conscious society, we should notice and be warned that in today’s time any public place or structure that comes up, suffers from the curse of poor quality.

Any road, any flyover, any station, any airport, any stadium or any other structure made today by some government department is of the poorest quality. The money spent is for the best quality, but what the country gets is of third-grade quality.

Why?

Because each such building or structure is milked as a source of income for the people involved in approving it. In India, for every 100 rupees spent by the government, major portion is siphoned off by the powers-that-be. In India, for some greedy people who could not employ themselves gainfully in some respectable vocation, politics is a business of looting this country for personal gains.

Till the deep stomach of India’s politics and government machinery is filled up, we will have to content with the leftovers and merrily circulate the photos of half-cooked and poorly designed structures.

When a Raja becomes vyapari, praja becomes bhikhari.

And beggars don’t have a choice.

Bad execution can undo great strategic steps

A close look at why international pen brands fail in India shows how poor quality affects the famous brands adversely.

In a very bold strategic step, a well known Indian pen manufacturer brand bought the rights to manufacture and market a famous international pen brand in India. They also hired India’s biggest superstar as the brand ambassador. A very aggressive advertising campaign was unleashed to popularize the brand in India.

But, the venture failed miserably. The sales did not grow as expected. The world famous brand could not do well in India.
Why?

Assuming that the brand will sell on its reputation only, regardless of the quality, the license holders neglected the quality of the pen. It was very very inferior compared to the imported product. The buyers who knew the brand expected that same quality from India manufactured product, but it was way down the standards.

Gradually, the hype created by the brand died down. The same is happening with many other famous international pen brands.

All these European brands are realizing that if they sell their rights to the greedy, commercial minded organizations in India, it costs very dearly to the brand’s equity.

If you compromise on quality, even the biggest superstar can’t save it.

The product must match the promise of the packaging

Nandish had started a product manufacturing firm. He was very particular about the design of his office interiors. His visiting card, envelope, letterhead etc were perfect. He took a lot of pain to finalize on the logo and the signboard. His product catalog was shown as an excellent example of creativity and class.

Nandish gave the same instructions when his web site was being designed. He ensured to make it immaculate. It was truly world-class. He gave the same attention to the design of his advertisements or any communication. He also ensured that the packaging of his product was at par with the best in the world of their category of products.

“The images of our organization and our product must be immaculate,” he always said. Anybody who would see these collaterals, would build a grand image in their mind about the organization they represented.

But, all this perfection in communication and presentation did not result into the acceptance of his products in the marketplace.

All his brands looked good, but did not sell good.

The excellence in designs did not result into an enthusiastic response from the customers.

His business was bleeding. Finally, he sought advise to find out what was going wrong.

It turned out that all the visual and verbal communication that the brand was making raised the expectation from the product. The packaging was world-class, so it was expected to deliver all that the world-class products in its category did. The perfection of the web site was not reflected in the perfect quality of the product. The advertisement promised excellence, but the behavior and service of his employees was sloppy, far from excellent. Customers did not like the experience of working with them.

All this needed modification. The product has to match with the promise the packaging makes. The verbal excellence of the advertisement must reflect in the enthusiasm of the employees. The class of the web site must be experienced by the customers.

This discrepancy resembles the contradiction we see between the quote we see on a T-shirt and its mismatch with the one who wears it.

T-shirt quotes come in all types. Some cute, some weird, some funny, some arrogant. Most of the times, the quote does not match with the body (or brain  above) it covers. In rare cases, when it does, the quote speaks for the body and brain. And, vice versa. That is a superb combination.

All can easily find this conformity or the lack of it.

Anybody can buy a T-shirt with any grand slogan written on it. Anybody can get a world-class catalog, web site or packaging designed.

But, just as the emptiness of the head can’t be covered by a great quote on a T-shirt, the weakness in the brand can’t be concealed by a great design of packaging or communication.

A mismatched quote on a T-shirt can be ignored and smiled away, but similar mismatch between the product and its promise is generally not forgiven by the market.

Stink finds its way out. No matter how beautifully disguised.

Focus on your Halwa not the hype

While on a visit to Lonavala one cannot miss the multitude of shops announcing their brand of Chikki – a local sweet delicacy. One specific brand of Chikki’s name (let’s call it Famous Chikki) is visible across the tourist place. It is visible almost everywhere there, with more than 50 outlets selling Famous Chikki. On many signboards of Famous Chikki, it is mentioned as “World famous”. So, one may think that Famous Chikki must be the most selling Chikki in Lonavala.

A little investigation revealed that the top selling Chikki in Lonavala is the one which has a nondescript shop, tucked away in the interior of the town, away from the market place where a majority of tourists stay and hang out. This is the Original Chikki. Daily, this shop does a roaring business, selling many times more than the cumulative sales of those 50+ outlets of the ‘Famous’ brand.

Curious, I asked the owner of this bestselling Original Chikki. “Why you are not advertising your Chikki the way that other one does? You can do even better.” His answer was revealing : “Every town and village has a Halwai which is famous for his Halwa, Peda , Laddoo, Barfi or any such local delicacy. He becomes successful because of his product quality. Seeing his success, other wannabe look-alike Halwais spring up and make a lot of noise, touting to be The best in the world. Instead of focusing on the product, the Halwa, they focus on the hollow messages. In the end, the product fails to live up to the the promise created by the message and the hype. They lose steam on the way.  Still, the original, completely focused on his Halwa, remains the best and the bestselling, without making any unnecessary noise. To answer your question, I focus on my Chikki, not on the noise…. I don’t have to worry about sales.”

If our product is not good, any type of ideas or strategy or tactic or ‘BIG’ thinking or hype or ‘Branding’ (!!!) will not cut the ice. If you wish to be the best Halwai, focus on the Halwa, not on the hollow hype.

Quality sells – even at a public toilet in Mumbai !

A pubic toilet in Mumbai is clearly an unlikely place to learn some good business practice. Just like in almost all parts of India, the disgusting, nauseatingly stinking public toilets are one of the worst nightmares people in Mumbai face. The situation for ladies in Mumbai is even worse because in the event of an emergency,  ‘Gents’ can assume the whole earth to be a public urinal, which ladies simply cannot, hence they have to silently pass through unspeakable agony for attending this natural process. The sorry state of public sanitation facilities is a blemish on the dreams of making Mumbai just like Shanghai or other such big global cities. It will remain a pipe dream, until this basic necessity is not given a serious thought.

But, a public toilet at Marine drive, just below the flyover junction connecting Marine Lines Station and Princess Street with Queen’s Necklace is a striking exception. It is a shining (literally…!) example of what differentiation means. The toilets, even though used by hundreds of people daily, are refreshingly clean. They are very well maintained and for that, the attendant there charges people for using the facility. Nobody appears unwilling to shell out a rupee or two for a service which saves them from the unpleasant experience of visiting a dirty public toilet in Mumbai out of helplessness.

Any product or service, maybe as mundane and unimaginative as a public toilet, can also provide quality, which people will happily welcome. The toilet at Marine Drive is run by some organization. I appreciate the clarity of the mission of the bosses there. If quality is given due attention by the bosses, it can be surely executed down the line. Otherwise, the stink continues to spread, from the top downwards….!

Marketing lesson from Salman Khan movies

Wanted, Dabangg, Ready and then Bodyguard. Salman Khan is THE star of Bollywood. Invincible.  Giving hits after hits. Why is nobody else able to match his winning streak?

As I understand, producers who are making films starring Salman Khan have identified a huge target customer segment unattended by many others. Other huge stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan are being cast into films which are ‘meaningful’ i.e. they have either some message or issue to talk about, or are based on some historical figure or event. These films make sense to only a part of the film-viewing audience – the people who are intelligent, are aware of or are concerned about  such issues. These intelligent people also have access to other modes of entertainment and films are not the only thing they spend their time or money on.

In contrast, Salman Khan movies can be watched keeping your brain aside. In fact, you may get a headache if you ‘think’ while watching them. Here, the traditional Indian hero comes alive, who can do anything. Nothing is impossible for him. And such fantasies are still in high demand in a very large audience base, who go to movies purely for entertainment, to run away from dark and unpleasant realities of life. They do not go to movies to think over some issue. They don’t wish to waste their scarce intelligence on a film. Also, they don’t have access to a wider range of entertainment options as others may have. So, they throng to cinemas, watch with awe and admiration Salman doing silliest things and clap and whistle on every cheesy line that he may speak. Everything that he does may be predictable and repetition from all his past films, but these people don’t mind all that. In fact, they relish it. Where the ‘meaningful’ cinema watcher will not be able to sit through the film for those 2.5-3 hours even if he gets a free ticket, these fans go to watch it multiple number of times buying their tickets.

Salman Khan gives aspirations to a huge number of Indians, who were earlier entertained by heroes like Mithun Chakraborty or Govinda. After them, this place was vacant. Salman Khan has occupied that slot just in time.

In the volume game where only numbers matter, target the customers who are large in numbers and are aspiring to move up in life. Make a product which suits their taste. It need not be a quality product. But remember, not all want quality. They will come and pay for watching somebody doing all things they dream to do but can’t do in life themselves.

Nobody may understand why, but it will sell like a hot cake. Just like Salman Khan films, not much brain is to be used in understanding this.

Customer ko unnis-bees ka fark bhi padta hai…!!!

I came across a recent and real example of how a new business loses its credibility in important customer’s mind and how customers feel taken for granted. We all can learn from it.

Pradeep runs a very reputed coaching class in Mumbai. It has more than 5,000 students on its roll. To all these students, they give some stationery like bags, note books, file folders, pens etc. with the coaching class branding. Pradeep ensured that this stationery was always of the best quality. He never compromised on the quality of things on which his brand’s name was printed.

Shrikant, a cousin of Pradeep, started a new wholesale business of PVC file folders. They supplied to bulk users and coaching classes were one of the target customer segments. He approached Pradeep and requested for an order of file folders. Pradeep showed him his regular folders, which were sourced from the best manufacturer with the best brand and quality reputation in the corporate market. Pradeep required 20,000 folders every year. He told Shrikant to provide him the same quality at better rates. Shrikant readily agreed and promised that he will certainly match the quality and will give better price. He took a specimen sample from Pradeep and went to work. Shrikant was very happy that he got a big order right in the beginning of his venture. That was a very good start to build upon, he thought.

The folders were delivered in due course. To Pradeep’s surprise, the quality of folders was not as per the specimen given to Shrikant. It was distinctly inferior. He called up Shrikant and asked for the reason for the difference in quality. He made it clear to Shrikant that he was not happy as the quality obviously did not match that of his earlier supplier. To that Shrikant replied, “I agree the quality is not same. That company gets its material from foreign markets on exclusive basis. It is not available in India to anybody else. What I have given you is the next best to it. And the rate is also 15% less. Sirf  unnis bees ka fark hai. Nobody notices in so much detail. Tere students ko kya fark padta hai….?

But it made a difference to Pradeep, to whom quality was of supreme importance. He realized that he had made a mistake of experimenting with Shrikant without checking his credibility. He felt that Shrikant should have communicated to him when he found out that the same quality was not possible. Pradeep felt being taken for granted and he disliked it.

He never repeated the order to Shrikant. Shrikant’s inability to understand that customers may forget the price, but they always remember the quality of products cost him a very big customer in the early stage of his business.

Really, customers never forget the bad quality or bad service. And they do not forgive being taken for granted. In the matter of quality, unnis-bees ka fark is a big difference. It can kill the credibility of a business. Forever.